When the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals meet up this afternoon in Washington, the Cardinals will have one of their best pitchers on the mound. With Chris Carpenter making his return to playoff baseball, the Nationals need to worry about their chances of making it past the National League Division Series.
In last season's run to the World Series, Carpenter went 4-0 in six starts with an ERA of 3.25. Overall, he has a playoff record of 9-2 and an ERA of 3.05. With that much playoff dominance, Carpenter is the perfect pitcher for the Cards to have on the mound entering Game 3.
Coming off a Game 1 win, Washington allowed an offensive outburst by St. Louis in Game 2, bringing the series to a 1-1 draw. If Nationals wanted to have a good shot at winning this LDS, they needed to have a 2-0 lead by now.
Now, with Carpenter pitching, they're going to need to overachieve just to get back in this series.
Carpenter was out of the lineup for pretty much the entire season because of thoracic outlet syndrome, which was causing him shoulder pain. After surgery, expectations had him coming back sometime in February.
After a lot of hard work, Carpenter somehow found a way to make it back into the Cardinals' rotation. In three games in the final two months of the regular season, Carpenter went 0-2 with an ERA of 3.71.
With Carpenter's history in the playoffs, you have to discount the injury and the fact that he was without a win in the few games he's played. He always brings it in the postseason (he currently owns a 9-2 record) and has rarely allowed more than a few runs per contest.
In the simplest terms, you need to have a real good offensive game to beat Carpenter.
If the Nationals can't keep St. Louis' offense at bay for a second straight game, a loss is almost assured. With Carpenter pitching, the Cards don't need 12 runs to beat Washington in Game 3. The minimum they might need is four.
This might be the first playoff for Washington in 79 years, but it will be a sad return as Carpenter will lead the Cardinals to within one game of the National League Championship Series.